Audio Research PH3

How do you guys rate the Audio Research PH3 as phono stage? Also compared to to a Jolida JD9?

Interested in musicality and extracting detail from the vinyl grooves
I used one for a year or two, and I would say that it was a very good phono stage. I used it with my Benz Micro Glider (0.84 mv output), and then with my Koetsu Black (0.42 mv output - yeah, I know its rated at 0.6, but I agree with Roy Gregory that it is lower than that). I bought mine for $850 used, as I recall.


It was very musical, IMHO.

It also provided a good degree of detail.

It could have its gain and loading changed.

It is a fairly neutral phono stage without having much mid-range bloom, despite it being a tubed preamp.


There was a bit of noise when using low output moving coil cartridges, (although I suppose that is to be expected, being a tubed unit, and since has 55 db of gain, as I recall). Eventually, this was its biggest drawback for me, (and ultimately led me to upgrade beyond it).

Also, it is a pain to change its gain and loading, as it required soldering of resisters to perform such a change.
(I never did it myself though.)

The degree of detail could be better, but it certainly was not bad for its price range.

I can't compare it to the Jolida, as I have not used it, but I can compare it to the optional phono stage boards inside my Ayre K-1xe preamp. The Ayre provides a bit more detail, and a much lower noise floor than the PH-3, without sacrificing musicality.

I can easily recommend this preamp (when bought used) for someone using a MC cartridge with an output of at least 0.8 mv. I can even recommend it for lower output cartridges (down to 0.42 mv or so), as long as you can put up with a small amount of noise floor. (For the most part, I enjoyed my time with it when using the Koetsu Black, despite the slight amount of noise floor.)

Stereophile had this rated as a Class "A" phono preamp, back in 1999, as I recall. IMHO, that was too generous even back then, and especially so now. I would rate it as a Class "B" myself. (With my Arye's phono boards being a Class "A-" (when used with balanced cables). As additional references, I rate the ASR Basis Exclusive as a Class "A", and the Aesthetics Rhea as a Class "B+".

(As you can see, I (generally) prefer the blacker backgrounds of solid state preamps versus the musicality that tubes can provide, so take that into account when using my opinions.)

My two cents worth anyway.
I hope this helps!
Good Luck!
The early PH3 was introduced by ARC as a budget piece, with the then-current SS PH2 selling for $1K more. I listened to both & bought the PH2. In turn the PH2 is substantially improved by replacing the stock MIT PPMFX coupling caps. The only shortcoming is limited gain.